Hurghada History Facts and Timeline

(Hurghada, Red Sea, Egypt)

The former Red Sea fishing village of Hurghada has now become one of Egypt's most popular beach holiday getaways. Although there may not appear to be much of a history present along its lengthy coastline, where over 100 modern hotels now stand, remnants of ancient Egypt lie less than an hour's drive away in nearby Al Quseir.

This location grew to become one of Egypt's most significant ports, thanks to its strategic setting at the terminus of the shortest distance between the Red Sea and the Nile River.

Ancient Al Quseir

Very little is known about the history of Hurghada before its official late 20th-century establishment as a constantly booming beach resort, although vessels from faraway lands have docked in the surrounding Red Sea since the ancient Egyptian era. The biggest and best-known of these ancient ports is Al Quseir, roughly 140 km / 87 miles south of Hurghada and several centuries older.

Throughout the centuries, Al Quseir has changed names nearly as often as its surrounding area has changed hands - including present-day Hurghada. Al Quseir was known as Thagho, Licos Limen and also Portus Albus, before receiving its present name, meaning 'a small fortress or palace'.

Al Quseir Trade Port

Centuries before beachgoers from across Egypt, Europe and the rest of the world flocked to Hurghada for their holidays, traders from throughout North Africa and the Middle East sailed to neighbouring Al Quseir, the only port which imported coffee from the Republic of Yemen.

Al Quseir is remembered for its expedition ordered at the request of Queen Hatshepsut, when in year of 1493 BC, explorers were sent to the legendary land of Punt. Exotic wildlife, ebony, ivory, myrrh and frankincense were just some of the plentiful riches that General Senenmet and his crew acquired during their voyage. The queen could never have known that the real value in Hurghada's future lay beneath the ocean in the form of colourful fish, now attracting divers from all around the world.

Ottoman Fortress

Al Quseir was also an important stop on the way to Mecca, on the Red Sea's opposite shore, for countless Hajj pilgrims during the Islamic and Ottoman periods. Many of these pilgrims departed for Mecca from the military fortress that the Ottomans constructed around Al Quseir to protect the prosperous port from invaders.

The fortifications failed to prevent the French and the British from occupying Al Quseir for several decades. After the 1869 Suez Canal opening eased sea trade routes with the East, Al Quseir's importance started to decline.

Modern History

During all of Al Quseir's centuries as a prominent port and beyond, the much smaller fishing village of Hurghada remained isolated and relatively unknown, despite its spectacular diving and breathtaking Red Sea beaches. The modern history of Hurghada did not begin until well into the 20th century, when investors from across Egypt and the world realised the town's very real potential as a holiday resort.

Today, over half of the population, along with most of its restaurants and hotels, can be found in the downtown El Dahar area, the largest of the town's three main centres. New Hurghada (Al-Ahiaa / Al-Ahyaa), as its name suggests, contains most of the resort's modern hotels and amenities. The third district, Sigala (Sekala / Sekalla), lies halfway between El Dahar and New Hurghada.